November 14, 2012
The Public Service Commission (PSC) of West Virginia wants customers to be prepared when they receive their next round of utility bills. Electric bills, water bills, telephone bills and gas bills may also be affected by the recent superstorm.
Electric bills usually reflect actual usage one month and an estimated bill based on last year’s usage for the same time period. In their efforts to restore service as quickly as possible following the heavy snowfall resulting from Hurricane Sandy, Appalachian Power, Monongahela Power, Potomac Edison and Wheeling Power have all reported employees were taken off their regular duties, such as reading meters, to assist restoration crews in the field. As a result, more customers than normal will receive “estimated” rather than “actual” bills in the next billing cycle. Unfortunately, the estimated bills will not take into account that a customer may not have had utility service for a portion of the month for which the bill is estimated.
The PSC wants to assure customers that the bills will be accurate or “trued up” as of their next electric bill based on an actual reading. In other words, after paying an estimated bill and the next bill based on actual usage, a customer will have paid not more than what was used.
West Virginia Water reports that although it was not necessary to take meter readers off their regular duties to assist with restoration activities, in some areas where there was very heavy snowfall, some meters were inaccessible. As a result, there could be an increased in the number of customers receiving estimated bills this month. Those customers who experienced service disruptions and were without water should, all other things being equal, expect to see slightly lower bills due to decreased usage.
Commission rules require telephone companies to pro-rate bills when service is interrupted for specified periods of time (according to the company’s tariff) due to any cause other than the negligence or willful act of the customer. Telephone customers who were without service should contact their phone company to request a bill adjustment.
There is a possibility some customers could receive up to three estmated gas bills in a row in situations where meters were inaccessible or there were safety concerns for employees.